Five days after telling bird dog John Raby that he would take our nuclear missiles off hair-trigger alert, Governor John Kasich back-tracked and said he didn’t believe the missiles were even on hair-trigger alert.
His uninformed reversal came at a public forum in Concord on February 7. I had asked him whether he supported de-alerting the nuclear missiles, 450 of which are based in silos in North Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana. (The number will come down to 400 under the New Start treaty.) Each missile has a warhead of 300 or 335 kilotons. Despite the fact that just 5 days earlier he had told bird dog John Raby that “Of course” he would de-alert the missiles, this time Kasich said he didn’t believe they were even on hair-trigger alert.
Kasich is wrong. A fact sheet from the Union of Concerned Scientists states: “The United States and Russia keep their [land-based] missiles on hair-trigger alert so they can be launched within minutes of a decision to do so, in response to warning of an incoming attack.” Global Zero published an in-depth report on de-alerting last year. Kasich should read both sources.
Kasich should also know that keeping the weapons on hair-trigger alert increases the chances they will be launched due to false alerts of incoming missiles, equipment failures, crew error, or cyber-attack. This has become even more urgent in light of recent friction between the U.S. and Russia.
Kasich got it right the first time. Of course the missiles should be de-alerted.
Kasich made a number of other comments in his response to my question. He cautioned against bellicose threats, but at the same time said he would send arms to Ukraine. He advocated co-operating with China regarding the North Korean nuclear threat. And he called for Pentagon reform, citing President Eisenhower’s warnings about the military-industrial complex.